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Charges in toddler's death to be decided in Berkeley Co. Circuit Court

January 11, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The state’s case against a Martinsburg-area couple accused of abuse and neglect in the Jan. 1 death of a 3-year-old boy is now bound for Berkeley County Circuit Court.

The boy’s father, James N. Mauldin, 20, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Berkeley County Magistrate Court on charges of child neglect and child abuse resulting in death.

Felony charges of child neglect and allowing child abuse with death that were filed against Mauldin’s girlfriend, Jasmine K. Dawkins, 22, also were bound over to circuit court Wednesday after Magistrates Joan V. Bragg and Harry L. Snow found probable cause in separate preliminary hearings.

In both hearings held for Dawkins, West Virginia State Police Trooper Z.S. Conner testified that the definitive cause of the boy’s death was not released by authorities in Washington, D.C., where the boy was flown for treatment on New Year’s Eve.

The trooper said authorities did indicate the child, Kaiwon Connelly, had multiple head injuries, including a fractured skull and brain bleeds, which Dawkins told the trooper might have been the result of Mauldin punching the boy several times a few days before the boy was hospitalized.

The boy died at 10:55 a.m. on New Year’s Day at Children’s National Medical Center, Conner said.

Conner testified that Dawkins told him that she did not report Mauldin’s alleged mistreatment of his son because she was afraid of being abused herself and that she had been previously abused.  

While the trooper testified that he had not been able to locate any protective orders issued against Mauldin in West Virginia, he also indicated he believed Dawkins when she told him she was afraid her boyfriend would hurt her.

The couple’s address was listed in court records as 214 Joshua Drive, Apt. 616, which is where Conner said he responded to investigate an “EMS assist-cardiac arrest” about 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Mauldin and Dawkins were originally charged with child abuse resulting in injury and a misdemeanor count of giving false information to police, but those charges were dismissed after the child died, and the new charges were filed, according to Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely’s office.  

In Dawkins’ hearings Wednesday, Mauldin exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to testify shortly after taking the witness stand.

In recounting his collection of evidence and statements, Conner noted that the boy was unconscious when he saw him, and the child’s head was swollen. Conner also indicated the boy had burn marks on his buttocks and thigh area down to his knees.

Conner said Dawkins told him how the boy was burned with skillets and pans that were heated and placed underneath the child to keep him from sitting on the floor.

The boy was expected to remain in a squatted position while being disciplined, Conner said.

The skillets and pans, along with two pair of children’s underwear, which police believe contained remnants of burned skin, were seized as part of the investigation, Conner said.

Dawkins told police that Mauldin “would get angry to the point he would heat a pan on the stove then place it on the floor underneath Kaiwon...” to keep him from sitting on the floor, according to charging documents.

Dawkins told police that she was in the bathroom with Kaiwon and the couple’s 3-month-old child, James, when Kaiwon stood on the toilet, fell off, landed on his side and struck his head on the floor. She said she saw blood on the inside of his ear a few hours later, the records said.

Conner testified that he was told that the child was eating eggs and was choking on them just before he collapsed.

The incarcerated couple’s toddler was taken into custody by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Conner testified.

Conner said Mauldin admitted to slapping the child in the back of the head, but told him the child’s biological mother was responsible for abusing the boy.

Conner testified that he was told the couple had no formal custody arrangement for the child, and that he was still investigating.

Mauldin told police that he had began staying at 214 Joshua Drive since just after Thanksgiving, according to Conner.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Saunders told Bragg in closing arguments that Dawkins’ supposed fear of being abused by Mauldin was no excuse for doing nothing to protect the boy.

“She was only looking out for herself .... She didn’t even call 911 when he stopped breathing,” said Saunders, whose voice wavered with emotion as she finished speaking.

Dawkin’s attorney, Sherman L. Lambert Sr., maintained that his client had expressed a “real fear” of being hurt and that she had nothing to do with the boy’s fatal injuries.

Both Mauldin and Dawkins remain incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, where they are being held on $250,000 bond, according to jail records.

Christopher J. Prezioso was appointed to represent Mauldin.

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